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FEMA Collaborates With Volunteer Oranizations To Aid In Federal Disaster Relief


CORDELE, Ga. -- Help for storm- and tornado-impacted Georgians has come from all sources.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) collaborates with volunteer organizations, faith-based groups and charitable organizations in the immediate aftermath of a disaster through the long-term recovery effort. These partnerships ensure that communities get the resources and services they need to get back on their feet.

National and local voluntary agencies are a key to emergency relief in any federal disaster mission. FEMA relies on the fast-moving volunteer agencies to provide immediate shelter and food assistance whenever a disaster threatens an area or as soon as the president declares the need for a federal disaster response.

“Our role is to get information on our programs to affected communities as quickly as possible and bring back information that will help us move everyone as quickly as possible from the response phase to the recovery phase,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch, in charge of federal disaster recovery efforts in Georgia. “The volunteer organizations are a conduit to provide that information.”

“Voluntary organizations are critical both in response and recovery,” added State Coordinating Officer Charley English, also director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. “Often they get to a disaster scene before anybody else, and they stay long after the initial response is complete.”

FEMA’s Voluntary Agency Liaison specializes in working with community and faith-based organizations that handle individual case management. Community groups generally operate from donations and make extensive use of volunteers. They are vital in identifying applicants for disaster assistance who may need special assistance.

One such group instrumental in the Newton , Georgia , recovery is the Adventist Community Services (ACS), which established food and supply distribution at the Baker County Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) and a supply center at the Sumter County DRC in Americus within a few days of the disaster’s strike.

Henry Beaulieu, the onsite coordinator for ACS in Newton , arrived there after working a disaster in Florida . He has set up similar disaster relief warehouses all over the United States .

“I was in New York a day after 9/11 and we were in Chattanooga , Tenn. , helping evacuees from Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “We go anywhere there are people in need. We consider ourselves partners with FEMA in disaster response. It’s a successful partnership.”

FEMA and the community organizations use a best-practices guide for disaster recovery provided by the National Organizations Voluntary in Disaster. The guide helps everybody to work together efficiently.

“Volunteers are the most important part of disaster recovery but if it weren’t for a coordinated effort, all the different groups would be stepping all over each other,” said Ginger Perkins, spokesperson for the Middle Flint Chapter of the American Red Cross. “People wouldn’t know where to go or what to do.”

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.


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